UNFF10 Kicks Off in Istanbul

Cross-sectorial linkages and data gaps identified as opportunities for progress

Forests are complex. So it comes as no surprise that a major point of deliberation at the 10th UN Forum on Forests will be how to reconcile the tensions between landscape and community approaches, economic growth and social justice goals, and tradeoffs of lifestyle and equity inherent in sustainable development.

So, how will heads of state make their positions known? And, will official declarations bring much needed thought innovation and financial commitment to combat global deforestation? The first day of the conference, April 8th, set an ambitious, at times heart-felt, but non-specific, intangible tone.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan opened the conference with a note on personal responsibility in promoting sustainability. P.M. Erdoğan emphasized that we all need to lead our lives more consciously and embrace the idea of sustainability beyond what is immediately visible. We need to care about how the goods we consume are produced and how we can make more informed choices – environmentally and socially. This is one way of contributing to protect our world’s forests.

Forests, food, & water

On the complexity of forests, Jan McAlpine, Director of the UNFF Secretariat, stressed the linkages between forests and clean water provision. Some of the cross-sectorial linkages of forests that McAlpine mentioned included::

  • Energy: Three billion people, or 43% of the world’s population, rely on fuelwood for cooking and heating.
  • Poverty: 90% of fuelwood and charcoal consumption is in developing countries and provides them with an affordable source of energy.
  • Food: Up to 60% of food in many developing countries comes from the forest.
  • Social equity: Vulnerable groups like women and children are the primary consumers of forest foods.
  • Health: 65-80% of the world’s population rely on medicines derived from forest products for primary healthcare. 70% of all new drugs introduced in the U.S. in the past 25 years are derived from the forest.

Voluntary country actions

McAlpine also reported on the progress made concerning the implementation of the Non-Legally Binding Instrument on All Types of Forests (the Forest Instrument) and on the Four Global Objectives on Forests from 2007. Please see the blog post above for further information.

FAO and UNFF broadened the reporting format for the progress of countries; for the first time, questions of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) were linked to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. This recognizes the broader contribution of forests to development objectives. McAlpine cited  that data from the 58 countries that voluntarily submitted reports and that represent 52% of global forest cover show an increasing awareness for the Forest Instrument.

4 Global Objectives on Forests

McAlpine noted that improvements have been made in many areas concerning the Four Global Objectives on Forests. Some of the highlights include:

  • Many countries revised and amended their forest legislation, partly to increase cross-sectorial cooperation.
  • Use rights for indigenous people are increasingly recognized by law.
  • Countries increasingly acknowledge the role of Non-Wood Forest Products in alleviating poverty and in providing an alternative income while contributing to food security.
  • Protected areas and certified forests are increasing internationally.
  • Public funding to achieve SFM has increased. However, funding is mostly related to the role of forests in climate change mitigation. In other areas, funding continues its downward trend.

While general, these remarks indicate that there is indeed some progress being made to improve sustainable forest management around the world at different scales. In some ways, it is easy to be skeptical of the potential for progress at the UNFF, but there may be quiet progress being made through informal talks going on outside the main conference hall. So, it is with careful optimism that we look forward to the coming days of talks and side events.


Please email us with your questions, comments, and thoughts on the UNFF10! Or follow us on twitter @azomer and @UrsDieterich.

Alisa.Zomer@yale.edu & Urs.Dieterich@yale.edu